Future of land management and better landscape decision-making in UK to be showcased

An example of a multifunctional landscape.

Insights into the future of land management in the UK and the importance of bringing together a wide range of views in the decision-making process will be highlighted at a conference to mark the end of a five-year research programme.

On 6 to 7 September 2023 the Landscape Decisions Programme, coordinated by the University of Leicester, will be holding its final conference at the Royal Society in London focusing on the topic of multifunctional landscapes.

It is the last major event for the programme, which over the course of 5 years has investigated how land can be managed better to realise benefits for society, individual wellbeing and the environment, both now and in the future.

Recommendations from its research include that tackling the climate emergency should involve those knowledgeable in the arts, business owners, farmers, landowners, developers and investors. It has also proposed a framework for making better and more transparent decisions about the use of our land, by encouraging decision-makers to gather evidence from four distinct viewpoints: Power and market gain relates to financial interests of organisations and people. Ecosystem services describe the value of environmental goods and services provided to society such as clean air and water. Place-based identity focuses on landscape character and the relationship between people and landscapes. The Ecocentric view seeks to treat all species equally in decision-making for the health of ecosystems and biodiversity.

The conference will showcase some of the research carried out as part of the Landscape Decisions Programme to over a hundred attendees, with speakers from academia and government to help bridge the gap between academic researchers and policymakers/stakeholders.

Keynote speakers include Sir Charles Godfray from the University of Oxford and Sophie Peter from the Institute for Social-Ecological Research, both experts on multifunctional landscapes. An exhibition of artworks curated by some of the projects that formed part of the programme will be accompanied by a debate on the power of arts for enabling transformative change in landscape decision-making.

Professor Heiko Balzter of the University of Leicester, who is coordinating the Landscape Decisions Programme, said: “The Landscape Decisions Programme has brought together a diverse community of researchers, land managers and stakeholders with the aim of improving the decisions we make about our landscapes. Our conference on 6 to 7 September will be the climax of a long and ground-breaking research programme. The event will take stock of what we all have learned in the process. Through panel discussions, we will examine what might come next for landscape research and land management in the UK, including England and the devolved administrations.”

The Landscape Decisions Programme, co-ordinated by the University of Leicester and funded by UK Research and Innovation, has examined how we can better make use of our land and make decisions about natural assets and the landscapes of the UK.

The programme has brought together a wide range of experts, including scientists, modellers, social scientists and artists, for a series of discussions and workshops bringing together research capable of enabling better landscape decisions.

Professor Balzter said: “It has been an immense privilege to be asked to lead this ambitious programme, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Other research programmes will no doubt build on our legacy.”